Thursday, March 17, 2005

Florida's Silver Rain

Typically I'd left Florida well before the rains commenced. Winters are dry; it's the summer that's wet. Till one year some business brought me back in late spring, almost summer. I was camped near Fort Lauderdale, on the edge of the Everglades: all oolite, Australian pines, sabal palms, some saw palmetto ... (Oolite is a rubble of shell fossils.) I bopped to the coast to sell some of these really cheesy airbrush diptychs, fuel me to write another chapter of the novel, returned to my pop up, and saw ... I didn't quite know what to make of it: puddles. Water? Water on the oolite? The sun was shinning brightly. If you haven't been this far south, you don't know what sunlight can look like, or how it can display Spanish, or merely stuccoed, architecture. Suddenly the air was filled with silver. The puddles rippled with new water. Then, just as suddenly, the new rain was over. And the sun had never been obscured. Florida sunlight through rain drops. Wow.

I'd come to Florida because I was homeless, writing out of my car. When my belly was empty, and the gas tank almost empty, I'd run out and do whatever I had to do to sell another couple of graphics: hit a gallery, steam roll them. Maybe I'd turn a couple of hundred, maybe only thirty-seven-fifty, but it would hold me, keep me going for another few days if not another few weeks. (I was "saving" two dollars a day by declining the park's option of electricity, then plugging the SmithCorona in at a neighbor's.) As the weather improved, I'd head back north. I'd already oversaturated the Miami or Naples area with my type of merchandise. Then I found these airbrush diptychs. They were so bad, I could sell them in minutes. Even the gallery owners, typically over-the-hill women put to pasture by dentist husbands, could tell movable schlock when they saw it.
Not long after that, I entered Sebring: found Highlands Hammock, the lakes, creeks, and Kissimmee River, and have not yet left it. It took only another season to learn that I love the Florida summer even more than the Florida winter.
For one thing, you get the rain: every day.
But don't be misled: the sky grumbles from late afternoon into evening. Anywhere within a hundred miles of Tampa Bay, the heat lighting enlivens all horizons well into the night. But the sun shines nearly everyday, and almost all day. I haven't seen as many sunshine showers in Sebring as I saw in the 'Glades, but we have them. There are also rains that last for an hour or two.
Once or twice a year it will sock in for a whole day or more: rarely three times.
Until recently.
Right now it's rainy and has rained all day. It rained half of yesterday. It's gray. It's cool. Ugh.

I'd heard since taking up golf in my forties that Florida was windy. For years in Sebring late winter winds would spoil my fishing. Sometimes a wind will come up and the fish attack. But more often the wind shuts down whatever piscene activity there was. In recent years the wind seems much worse than previously. Global warming? Who knows? Weather tos and fros whatever we do. But I don't doubt that a good part of it is our own fault. And I don't doubt that whatever we do now will be too little too late. Our window closed.
Got cancer? Might as well smoke.

Rain socked us in a week and a half ago too. Grr.

After posting the above I went to to check my news. Reuter science reports offer a new summary on global warming. The piece says that globel warming will continue even if we stopped all emmissions today. An hour ago I wrote, "Got cancer? Might as well smoke." But of course pk was being pk. I think. I also calculate rhetoric. Sometimes I try one communicational strategy, sometimes another, sometimes I don't give a damn about strategy, sometimes I just want to be rude. But global warming is no more a joke than is cancer. And stopping smoking may prolong an already doomed life, even when it's too late to alter the doom. Stopping smoking may further make the remaining life of the doomed more comfortable: to the doomed and to the doomed's family and neighbors. Stopping pollution may not reverse global warming, but it may slow its acceleration. Some cities will be lost in time, others may yet be spared.

Sebring is in Highlands County. We're not too far above sea level, but further than any other part of Florida. Indeed, I'm within a mile or two of the "original" Florida: the bit of spine that was above sea level millions of years ago. I can "see" the time line: This here is ancient, that there is much more recent. It will look pretty funny though if everyone in Florida comes running to all stand on the one little spine.
You'll have to leave your cars behind.
And then we can all eat each other. Till there's nothing left.

Changing Weather
Der Wind, der Wind, das himmlische Kind That Florida is windy is one of the first things I ever heard about it: from a golfer who played some minor circuit here every winter. Golfers get to know the wind, though no one knows the wind like small craft sailors: unless it's fishermen. There have been years here where I've fished every day of more than one week in every month. The canoeist feels the wind more than the bassboater. The light weight dry fly fisherman feels it more than the canepoler or the Texas-rigged worm caster. Here in Florida I cast nothing lighter than a #4 fly rod with a #12 popper. That would be heavy on a trout brook, but it's very light in Florida bass country.
Yesterday I decided to fish an entirely different technique: I'd fish red worms on the bottom for shellcrackers. I should have changed my mind the instant I saw the chop on the lake. I'd already ignored the prediction of thunderstorms, most likely in the morning. Ignoring a second sign was truly foolish. But I'd been up since hours before light practicing tying my shellcracker rigs.
It wasn't till I was on the lake, in maybe twelve feet of water, and had slowed my drift somewhat with a stern mushroom anchor, that I discovered that I hadn't replaced the bow anchor, a digger type, after "organizing" things a while back. Nothing going right I made the further mistake of leaving the one anchor in the stern. I never fish anchored. I seldom even fish from the boat, preferring to go overboard and wade, I had none of the right habits for this new adventure.
I'd tied the rigs so that a weight would take the line to the bottom. Twelve inches above the sinker an inch of tippet led to a baited #5 hook. Fourteen inches above that wriggled another red worm. You don't need much weight in the sinker to be able to feel the bottom clearly when it touches. My problem yesterday was, even holding the rod in my hand at all times, the boat was tossing about so I couldn't possibly maintain contact with the bottom and also keep the line free of slack. When nothing had been fooled within a half and hour, I wasn't surprised. After two hours of the same, the only fool was me. I also had a minnow swimming around under a cane pole in case a crappie happened by. Nada.
Go home. Organize the shed. Find that anchor and put it back where it belongs.And get a second mushroom anchor for the other side of the stern.
OK, we arrive at my target: I approach the dock. A bassboater has just tied onto the end of the south side of the dock. No one else is about: only two trailers in the parking area: mine, and the other must be the bass guy's. I give the bass boat an extra-wide margin considering the wind, and I make my approach. I'm judging the wind, my velocity, my momentum, the dock ... when I see a head in the water. The bassman is overboard. "Hold on," I call, "I'll give you a hand up."
But I see that he can't hold on. He's struggling in the water, bobbing on the chop, his reaches fail to grab either boat or dock.
Uh oh, I'd better tie on myself and help him out. But now I miss the dock. I start to shut the engine down before I have hold of anything myself, realize my mistake too late to keep the engine turning. I have to re-pull the chord as my bow smashes against the dock, the precious rods in danger of being splintered. This old hand is so used to doing things safely without a safety net, I hadn't properly stowed the rods. Practices I'd insist on for others I'd neglected myself.Things were happening too fast for it to occur to me that I didn't need to tie onto anything: the wind was stiff into the shore. The boat wasn't going anywhere far. I needed to be out of the boat and either on the dock or in the water to help the guy.
By the time I get to him, he's half-out and up on his own. I see his hat still in the water. His wallet is half fallen from his trousers, but if it drops now, it will probably hit the dock, not the water. So we can relax a little bit.
It's a good thing we arrived not far apart: we needed each other to load the boats onto the trailers.
These two decades, only once have I had trouble loading a boat by myself due to wind: a sailboat with the sails hanging free, but still on the mast.
The guy was OK, I was OK. Point is: It's March. I know. But I've fished every March. No, this year is different. Last year was different. They're worse. Each year is worse. Once I met the guy who'd been overboard I could form my impression that he wasn't a klutz. I bet he'd never been pitched overboard before no matter the wind.

Point is: even those of use who were trying (and failing) to warn others about global warming, etc. thirty years ago didn't see all the details of everything that would go wrong. And we still don't see all the details of what will be wronger thirty years from now.


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